Monday, July 22, 2013


Students and friends have asked about how I do the writing on my appliqué blocks. As promised, here are my recommendations and method, with lots of photos.

For fancy writing, I first make the design in Microsoft Word, and type out words in Kunstler Script Bold font, which most closely resembles the writing I have seen on antique quilts. Use a font size that you can actually write (not too small). Copy the words twice and print on paper. Cut out one copy of the words for tracing. Set aside the second copy for visual reference. HINT: Including a straight line or two will help with straight placement.

Did you think my writing was freehand? Sorry, my freehand writing will never be as pretty as Kunstler Script. If you do not have a computer, and are nervous about signing a block, write out your signature on paper first. You can make sure the writing fits the space or centers where you want it to be on your block. Then trace it as described below.

* Always practice on a sample of the same fabric.
* Fabric must be completely dry or the ink will bleed.
* A light box is indispensable for tracing.

I use Sakura Pigma® Micron® pens, which are permanent on fabric. Size 005 is best for very small, fine writing, but it must be used with a very light touch. Notice that there is a huge difference between 05 and 005 – Closeup below compares Size 005 at left, Size 05 at right.)



1.  Place the block FACE DOWN on the light box.

2.  Where the inking will be done, stabilize the BACK of the fabric, to help the pen move smoothly across the fabric, or the pen may catch on the threads as it moves. Transparent tape is easy to see through for tracing. Use clear packing tape for larger areas.

3.  Turn on the lightbox. Place the printout FACE DOWN on the BACK of the block. Align the printout, and tape that down securely. I have used regular office tape on top of the packing tape (easy to adjust or move it if needed.)

4.  Turn the block over FACE UP on the light box. Keep the second copy of words nearby for reference, so you can better see details of the letters.

5.  Take your time. This is not a job to be rushed. Get comfortable, take a deep breath, and brace your hand on the lightbox. Use a very light, steady hand to write. Use the Pigma pen like a paintbrush, brushing the ink softly. Too much pressure can damage the pen’s fine point. Do not allow the pen to stay on one spot for very long, or the ink may blot as the fabric soaks up the ink.

6.  Ink all the words as single strokes first. You can darken the downstrokes of letters or add details later, if desired. (Like salt in soup, ink is easy to add, nearly impossible to remove.)

7.  Turn the lightbox on and off frequently to help you determine the effect, and the amount of ink or pressure desired.

8.  Last step, and VERY important – REMOVE all the tape before ironing or wetting the block!  NEVER leave any tape on fabric long term.

Allow the ink to dry completely, 24-48 hours, before wetting the block.

Signing blocks for a signature quilt. Size 05 Pigma pen is best when many people will sign freehand on fabric. Provide them with sample fabrics (with tape on back) to practice. Don’t let them use regular ink pens! Bellwether Dry Goods makes signature quilts for weddings, and they provide this little sign with the pens:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Years ago, I learned inking techniques in classes with Susan McKelvey. Her books are out of print, but you can still find them. Also find more information and inking techniques in books by Elly Sienkiewicz, including alphabets, phrases and fancy Victorian words to trace.

Inking can be used to trace images from calligraphy books, engravings, graphics, even trace from your photos onto fabric. Embellish your appliqué with inking – Pigma pens are available in lots of colors. Label your quilts! I could go on and on about inking – I’ve done lots of different things with Pigma pens. But this post is already too long.

See more inking tips here: Inking and Signing on Fabric - Continued

‘Til next time, Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2013 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Applique Organizer Folders (Continued)

This is a followup to yesterday's post (Click here) about Applique Organizer Folders. 

Glenda posted a comment that "Threaded needles could probably be kept here as well."

She is so right! Here are pictures of my needle folder. I can thread lots of needles in advance for teaching a class, doing demos, traveling in the car, quilting, or preparing for any sewing project. It saves a lot of class time. I don't have to thread needles in a hurry, or while bumping along in the car.

Needle Organizer

This folder was made the same way as the Applique Organizer. Then I added an extra piece of batting, folded in half, along the top. This is simply pinned onto the glued batting with long quilter's pins -- the ones with the big yellow ball. (Flat ones would be even better.)
Because this batting piece is loose, I can easily insert my various threaded needles, extra ball point pins, etc.

The threads are then laid flat on the batting where they will cling. The top flap folds down to secure all the needles even more. You don't want them slipping out!
(Note to self: Attach a little flat magnet to hold empty needles!)

At the bottom half of the folder, there is a folded scrap of muslin just laid on top. This makes all those loose threads behave when I remove a threaded needle -- as I remove a threaded needle, I place my hand on this muslin scrap -- it helps "contain" all the other threads and prevents tangles. I used the pinking cutter to trim the muslin, so it will not ravel.

P.S. I love the pinking cutter blade to cut out my applique blocks -- they don't ravel with all that handling of the block. Then I trim the blocks to size with the straight cutter before assembling my quilt.

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2013 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Applique Organizer Folders

Great for hand piecers too!

Organizing Small Fabric Pieces for Applique or Hand Piecing

Applique and hand piecing often require a lot of small fabric pieces. Here is an idea to keep all those little pieces organized and handy, especially when travelling.

You will need:

  • 1 Sturdy File Folder
  • Cotton Batting -- leftover strips at least 12 inches long -- after trimming the edges of a quilt for binding, we often have long strips of leftover cotton batting. Save them!
  • Rotary Cutter (straight blade, and pinking blade if you have one)
  • Rotary Cutting Mat and Ruler
  • Gluestick (not wet glue)

  1. After trimming the edges of a quilt for binding, we often have long strips of leftover batting. Save those long strips! I use Quilter's Dream Cotton, Request loft.
  2. Cut long edges of batting scraps with a rotary cutter. If you use a "pinking" rotary blade, the batting strips can nest together nicely. My folder is 11-3/4 inches tall so I made my batting pieces 12 inches long. A width of 8-1/2 inches would have been perfect for my folder, but narrower strips can be set side by side.
  3. Open the file folder and lay it flat. On the right-hand side of the center fold, rub gluestick to cover the area, all the way to the edges. (If your folder has a "tab" don't glue that.)
  4. Before the glue dries, carefully lay a strip of batting down onto the glue. The strips should be longer than the top and bottom of the folder.
  5. Smooth the batting flat. Make sure all the batting adheres nice and flat. If one strip is not wide enough, add more strips until the right-hand side of the folder is covered with batting, except the folder "tab."
  6. Let the glue dry. (Note: Don't use a wet glue, only gluestick. Wet glue will seep through batting, make it stiff and less "clingy," and will warp the folder.)
  7. Lay the folder on a cutting mat. Rotary cut with a straight rotary blade to trim the top and bottom of excess batting strips even with the folder.
  8. Arrange appliqué pieces on the batting in a logical order (by number, color, placement on the block, or however you like to work).
Fabric pieces will cling to the batting, flat and organized. Storing pieces this way avoids unnecessary handling, fray, and loss of little pieces.

You might want to store your paper pattern in the same folder. Oh, my! You could write a pattern name on the tab, and even file your folders and be really organized.
If you are like me, you will need a folder for each work in progress. Don't we all have more than one project at a time?

And here is my Applique Needle Organizer: Click here

Keep Stitching,
Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2015 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.